Home News Need Some Coastal Escape? Explore California’s State Parks.

Need Some Coastal Escape? Explore California’s State Parks.

Need Some Coastal Escape? Explore California’s State Parks.

Kids are out of school, the weather is balmy in much of the state and the days are long — it’s time for summer travel.

Today, I have a new round of recommendations for the best state parks to visit this summer, whether you’re planning a day trip, a weekend getaway or something longer. California’s state park system includes 280 parks: If the options feel overwhelming, it’s in the best way. These five parks in particular delight at every turn.

And remember: The next few weeks in California are likely to be unusually hot. So make sure to check the weather forecast before you head out, bring plenty of water and stay safe.


About two and a half hours north of San Francisco, Salt Point State Park can offer a foggy reprieve when California’s inland areas are baking. Visitors can explore miles of hiking trails through grasslands and redwood forests, as well as along the rugged coastline, where there’s almost always a cool ocean breeze.

The largest surviving crystalline gold nugget from California’s gold rush, once a marvel on display at the 1878 Paris Exposition, weighs a whopping 13.8 pounds. You can see it at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, about 70 miles east of Modesto. There, you’ll see not only the Fricot Nugget, as the massive specimen is called, but also mining artifacts and rare gems and minerals from across the state, including an example of benitoite, an extremely rare gemstone discovered in San Benito County. (Benitoite is the official gemstone of California and appears to glow in the dark.)

Home to the second highest point in San Diego County, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers expansive views of the region’s diverse terrain, including deserts, mountains and the Pacific coastline. The park’s forests and meadows, which are cut by streams that produce cascades and shallow pools, provide blissful respite from the typical dry Southern California landscape.

Going wine-tasting? Consider swinging by Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where you can unwind among coastal redwoods just a few miles from downtown Calistoga. You can escape the Napa Valley summer heat by swimming in the park’s outdoor pool; bring your own wine and cheese and picnic under towering trees; or even camp for a few days, using the park as a home base for your adventures.

A short drive from Monterey, Fort Ord Dunes State Park offers a serene spot to jog, bike, hike or stroll along the beach. A cellphone tour teaches visitors about the history of Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army post that was set aside as a nature reserve to protect the endangered Smith’s blue butterfly.

Today’s tip comes from Marty McVeigh, who lives in Brentwood. Marty recommends the East Brother Light Station, in San Francisco Bay:

“I have a new favorite place to visit. This past weekend my wife and I stayed at the East Brother Light Station, a small island in the northern San Francisco Bay. Since the late 1800s, it’s been the site of a lighthouse, and became a B&B in 1980. The place has history and nature in every corner and view. There were eight visitors, including the two of us, and everyone was of an adventurous spirit, making for engaging conversation during our meals. The innkeepers, Dre and Charity Elmore, provided excellent cuisine and proved to be wonderful hosts. This was our first visit, but it’s now a favorite and we’ll be back!”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What are the best books about California or the part of the state where you live? What fiction or nonfiction would you put on a Golden State reading list, and why?

Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your suggestions. Please include your name and the city where you live.

When The New York Times recently published a photo essay celebrating public libraries, the reader responses poured in.

For so many people, libraries offer solace, community, discovery and joy. Here’s some of what California readers shared:

“I serve on the library board for my city, and find that our library staff understands the community more deeply than any policymakers. No one recognized we have a burgeoning community of Ethiopian immigrants until one of our library branches started stocking books in Amharic!” — Abby Arnold, Santa Monica

“When I was 9 or 10, I was playing down at the creek (small-town upbringing in the 1950s) and I found what was to me a huge turtle. I took the poor thing and ran all the way to the library and asked the librarian for a book about turtles. Did she tell me to get that disgusting creature out of the library? No, she did not. She found me a book about turtles, and I went home very happy and excited about my new pet. I’m pretty sure my mother made me put him back in the creek. My first library research experience!” — Patrice Marcks, Riverside


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